Philosophy as a Way of Life: Deleuze on Thinking and Money


The work of Pierre Hadot has re-established an approach to philosophy as a way of life, a set of spiritual exercises (Hadot 1995, 2002). As Socrates explained his task, “I tried to persuade each of one of you to concern himself less with what he has than with what he is, so as to render himself as excellent and rational as possible” (Plato, Apology, 36c).1 In practice, this means that heroic and virtuous souls “despise Being for the sake of the Good, when they voluntarily place themselves in danger.”2 Hadot describes this as the fundamental philosophical choice: to prefer the Good above existence itself, and thought and conscience above the life of the body. It is in this sense that philosophy is an apprenticeship for death: it subjugates the body’s will to live to the higher demands of thought (Hadot, 1995: 94). While Michel Foucault may have been fascinated by this tradition of care of the self, manifest among the Stoics as constant attention and vigilance, one cannot imagine Gilles Deleuze having much time for such a moral image of thought. For the splitting of the Good and Being, and the consequent judgement and perpetual disciplining of life in the name of the Idea, is precisely the practice of transcendence that constitutes the opposite pole to Deleuze’s philosophy of immanence.

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